Government to continue fight against communist insurgents

 

President Rodrigo Duterte and CPP founder Joma Sison: Student and teacher.

With the signing of Proclamation 360 terminating the on and off peace talks with the communist insurgents  in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte is once more declaring war and perhaps a long, merciless war this time.

It must be remembered that making peace with the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – The New People’s Army (NPA) was among Duterte’s priorities since he became president in June last year, and for good reasons.

Not only are Filipinos fighting one another, but this internal conflict has been going on for 50 years now with over 40,000 people killed already, not to mention the expenses incurred when an entourage of peace negotiators flies to the Netherlands where the suppose Maoist leaders of the NDF-CPP-NPA live.

But what really has been angering Duterte is the fact that even during a declared truce still the NPA, the armed wing of the rebels, stages an ambush that sometimes kill innocent civilians, thus, prompting Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque to say this time: “We find it unfortunate that their members have failed to show their sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peaceful negotiations.”

I don’t think there has ever been a president in the past who has earnestly pursued peace with the Maoist-led rebels in the Netherlands the way Duterte has.

Not only has Duterte been a student of Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, the exiled founder of the CPP, at the Lyceum University, but Duterte himself has admitted being a leftist and therefore has often said that he understood the plight of the rebels, but his presidency, however, is now about uniting the people and not the dismembering of the republic.

Unfortunately the good intentions of Duterte for peace is not being earnestly reciprocated the same way by Sison and cohorts for reasons only they know, even issuing a defiant statement after Proclamation 360, saying, that the revolutionary forces now have no choice but to intensify guerrilla warfare in rural areas.

Indeed, what a pity and what a forsaken chance that peace has been made even more unreachable now.

 

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Hallmarks of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims

 

The exodus of the Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

You can consider this as still a sequel to the couple of blogs I wrote about the apathetic Aung San Suu Kyi which can be read at the following links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/aung-san-suu-kyi-a-laureate-she-is-not/ https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/10/05/aung-san-suu-kyi-a-laureate-she-is-not-part-ii/.

The title I am using is actually part of the descriptive statement issued by US Senator Jeff Merkly about the crisis in the Rakhine State, during his delegation’s visit to Myanmar, when he said: “Many refugees have suffered direct attacks including loved ones, children and husbands being killed in front of them, wives and daughters being raped, burns and other horrific injuries. This has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing,”

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have left Myanmar’s Rakhine State since August 25, after insurgents attacked security forces and prompted a brutal military crackdown that has been described as ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s deafening silence and indifference to the plight of the Rohingyas caused uproar in the international community, especially that she is a recipient of the prestigious Nobel peace prize. Not only that. She herself suffered house arrest for many years and, thus, she would have clearly understood what injustice and persecution is all about.

Yet, her government has repeatedly rejected claims that atrocities, including rape and extrajudicial killings, are occurring in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence that the United Nations has qualified as “textbook ethnic cleansing.”

It seems that Myanmar and Suu Kyi, for that matter, does not recognize the Rohingya and denies them citizenship, referring to them as “Bengali” to imply origins in Bangladesh, the country where the hapless people were escaping to.

“In the case of the Rohingya this is so severe that it amounts to a widespread and systemic attack on a civilian population, which is clearly linked to their ethnic (or racial) identity, and therefore legally constitutes apartheid, a crime against humanity under international law,” rights group Amnesty International (AI) said.

But China’s recognized power in Asia is the saving grace for the Rohingyas.

China’s entry and proposal for a three-phase plan for resolving the Rohingya crisis, starting with a ceasefire, has won the support of Myanmar and Bangladesh. A ceasefire should be followed by bilateral dialogue to find an immediate workable solution of the crisis and the third and final phase should be to work toward a long-term solution.

It is in this light that Suu Kyi expressed hope for reaching an agreement with Bangladesh on the return of Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh in the past three months. She said both Myanmar and Bangladesh are working on a memorandum of understanding for the “safe and voluntary return” for those who fled.

“Nothing can be done overnight, but we believe that we will be able to make steady progress,” Suu Kyi said.

True, but the compelling question Suu Kyi has to answer first is: Do people, no matter how lowly they are in both social and religious stature in your country, deserve to die first before they become part and parcel of your community?

 

Dog cyst pictured like Trump

 

I do not know if this is fake news, but I sure found this under a weird news column and like any weird news item this is simply incredible and worth sharing.

A beagle dog in Tyneside, England was said to be persevering a growth, a cyst, if you may, in his ear.

Will, this may be normal for a  beagle since its extraordinary long ears almost always touches the ground when sniffing for something and in the process picks up a lot of dirt.

Jade Robinson said her two-year-old beagle, Chief, developed the cyst after dirt got in his ears.

Robinson said that while she tries to keep Chief’s ears clean on a daily basis, she admitted she can only do so much and noticed the infection growing from bad to worse.

Finally she decided to take a picture of the growing cyst to show to the vet, but not before a friend saw it and commented that what made the infection more seemingly painful to the dog was that the cyst resembled the image of Donald Trump, the 45th president of the USA!

You just have to use your imagination and picture it out yourself and you will see the resemblance.

It was said that Chief needed to be sedated so that vets can figure out the severity of his ear problem. The initial cost is the equivalent of about $590 ― more than Robinson could afford ― so she was hoping to raise the money via a crowd funding campaign that has the words “get Trump out of Chief’s ear” cleverly embedded in the URL.

Maybe not surprisingly, but generally, Chief got a lot of support from people who sympathize with him, and aren’t fans of the man the cyst resembled and donated with the accompanying comments like:

  • “Hope this helps Chief to rid himself of any nonsense creeping into his lughole. Could you even imagine how annoying it would be to have that fool in your ear?!?”
  • “I would donate far more for a vet to deal with the real Donald Trump!”
  • “Poor Chief. No one should have to put up with Trump in their ear! Here’s to a speedy recovery.”
  • “We here in America would all like to see Donald Trump surgically removed-The least we can do is help out Chief!”

Now, talking about how unpopular and despised Trump is!

Human rights world summit in the Philippines

 

President Rodrigo Duterte attending the 25th APEC Leaders’ Summit Meeting in Vietnam.

Stakeholders concern about violation of human rights should congratulate President Rodrigo Duterte for recommending the Philippines to be the site for a world summit on human rights.

“We should call a summit. And I will volunteer to make the Philippines the venue,” Duterte said during a late night press conference in Vietnam where he attended the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit.

Hopefully, human rights advocates/agencies will consider this challenge and push through with it.

There is no question that the Philippines has issues on human rights violation and it has been magnified even more because of Duterte’s relentless and brutal campaign against illegal drugs.

But Duterte issued a caveat in that the summit should focus on human rights not just in the Philippines but also across the globe. He said that the conference must tackle how to “protect the human rights for all human race.”

I could not agree more with Duterte. For one who feels he is being criticized harshly and singled out as behind the extrajudicial killings in the country as a product of his deadly war on drugs, it is only right and just that human rights violation in other countries should be scrutinize as well for it is in comparison that one could judge if the Philippines tops the list or simply pales when analyzed.

Just because the Philippines is a struggling democratic country does not mean that developed countries supporting democracy and advocating human rights can just go hammer and tongs for what Duterte and his government believe that it is what is destroying the nation especially when abetted by unscrupulous and corrupt politicians?

Asked if he would request the United Nations to monitor his proposed human rights summit, Mr. Duterte said he prefers “a panel of lawyers” to do it.

“I’m more comfortable with a panel of lawyers. Because they will understand immediately the legal implications,” he noted, adding that he might also invite “experts in the science of medicine” and the “destruction of the human body.”

It is in this light that I say this to the people and world agencies speaking ill of the Philippines’ human rights record: Before sternly condemning the country led by Duterte on its alleged human rights violations, why don’t you research the human rights violation committed by the following countries and then ask yourselves what you have done about it: Syria, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Myanmar, Yemen and Nigeria.

 

Roque: an able spokesman and potential senatorial candidate in 2019

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque

Critics of newly minted Presidential spokesman Harry Roque not only expressed disappointment over the latter’s acceptance as the mouthpiece of President Rodrigo Duterte because it goes against every grain of what the president is relative to human rights, of which Roque is known for his strong advocacy for it, but also because Roque is said to be taking advantage of using his new position to promote his senatorial bid in May 2019.

What the critics meant though is that Roque could never be an able spokesman for the president as there is glaring incompatibility between his being a human rights lawyer and at the same time a supporter of Duterte’s deadly war on drugs.

But how wrong can these pundits be.

Would Duterte have chosen Roque if he thought that Roque would just be an obstruction in his government especially when a spokesman is tasked to speak on his behalf, an ‘alter-ego’, if you may, and at the same time a shield from and defender of criticisms thrown at the president?

The fact is that Duterte knew Roque long enough that he saw in this equally controversial person, who in his own right is known for his tirades and outspoken opinions, an adequate person to be his new spokesman.

As to Roque’s potential candidacy for senator in 2019, Duterte has made an outstanding announcement. Why not indeed? Roque is better than the Trillaneses, the Sottos and the Pacquiaos in the Senate today.

But just to prove my point that Duterte made the right choice in Roque, allow me to share with you, in case you have not heard nor seen it yet, this worldwide TV interview of Roque by no less than the noted Chief International Correspondent for CNN, Christiane Amanpour. It should make Duterte proud for Roque was able to stand his ground and was successful in articulating Duterte’s policies.

China and its ‘magic island-maker’ dredging vessel

 

The Tiankun dredger: China’s massive island-maker.

What am I talking about here and what is its significance?

Well, amid ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the controversial island-building frenzy China has been undertaking thereat, it has been reported lately that this economic giant of a nation continues to flex its maritime muscles, this time with the launching of an equally giant island-building vessel considered to be the most powerful vessel of its type in Asia.

Named the Tiankun, the vessel, more aptly described as “a magic island maker”, is the best of its kind in Asia, according to the ship’s designer, the Marine Design and Research Institute in Shanghai, and “can be used to conduct coastal/channel dredging and land reclamation operations even in bad weather at sea.”

The vessel, with a deck as long as five basketball courts, 140 meters, and a full displacement of 17,000 metric tons, can smash underwater rocks and then suck out sand, water, and mud, and transfer the substance up to 15 kilometers away. It can dredge up to 6,000 cubic meters (around two and half Olympic swimming pools) an hour from a depth of up to 35 meters.

The Tiankun is the same kind of vessel as its sister, the Tianjin, the largest currently operating dredger used to create several China-held militarized islets in the disputed seas including those close to our shores in the West Philippine Sea.

The fortification of these Chinese-made islands with military-grade airfields and weapons systems was referred to later as China’s “great wall of sand,” by U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris in 2015.

The Philippines government is said to be wary about the giant dredger especially that international security observers have expressed alarm that it might be deployed to the region again, this time to reclaim Scarborough Shoal.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that government is monitoring the dredger especially in the light of the statement issued by Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, saying, “The President recognizes the principle of good faith in international relations. China has told the President they do not intend to reclaim Scarborough and we leave it at that.”

But who are we really to stop what China has already began in what it claims as their territory historically?

Good faith?

As the poor, aggrieved country we can only rely on our faith. The question, however, is: Will China give in to faith as it extends its influence in Asia and across the globe?

New species of orangutan discovered

 

An adult male Tapanuli orangutan in the Batang Toru Forest (Photo from National Geographic).

Far from being the Fosseys and Goodalls of this world, both leading primatologists, the discovery of a new species of orangutan, however, brings excitement to ordinary people, like me, who loves and gets immensely entertained by this kind-looking, playful and intelligent variety among the primates, who generally are considered one of humankind’s closest relatives.

Orangutans long were considered a single species, but were recognized as having two species in 1996, one in Sumatra (Pongo abelii) and one in Borneo ((Pongo pygmaeus).

(Photo by National Geographic)

The new species, called Pongo tapanuliensis, is found in the isolated Batang Toru forest in Sumatra, Indonesia. And it’s estimated that there are fewer than 800 of these shaggy reddish tree dwellers left, making it very vulnerable to extinction. It makes the new species also the rarest great ape on Earth. Note that the Sumatran (estimated 14,000) and Bornean (estimated 55,000) have both been declared as critically endangered.

Although the Tapanuli orangutans were thought to belong to the species Pongo abelii, also known as the Sumatran orangutan, scientists discovered that the new species is more closely related to its cousins in Borneo than to its fellow Sumatran apes.

But according to scientists there had been a few hints in their observation that the so-called Tapanuli orangutans were different. Previous research showed that this population of orangutans behaved differently than other orangutans and had some genetic differences. But it wasn’t clear whether those differences were enough to name a new species, thus, it continued to be identified as belonging to the Sumatran orangutan.

The tell tale signs of significant difference later came when researchers got access to the skeleton of an orangutan found in the Tapanuli region. The orangutan, named Raya, had died after being harassed and injured by people, according to National Geographic. A comparison between Raya’s skull and teeth and those of 33 other adult male orangutans revealed that there were enough differences to grant a new species designation.

Orangutan means “person of the forest” in the Indonesian and Malay languages, and it is the world’s biggest arboreal mammal. Orangutans are adapted to living in trees, with their arms longer than their legs. They live more solitary lives than other great apes, sleeping and eating fruit in the forest canopy and swinging from branch to branch.

“It’s pretty exciting to be able to describe a new great ape species in this day and age,” said University of Zurich evolutionary geneticist Michael Krützen, adding that most great apes species are listed as endangered or critically endangered.

“We must do everything possible to protect the habitats in which these magnificent animals occur, not only because of them, but also because of all the other animal and plant species that we can protect at the same time.”

Matthew Nowak, of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, echoed the same sentiment, saying, that “In addition to threats like hunting by humans, significant areas of the Tapanuli orangutan’s range are seriously threatened by habitat conversion for small-scale agriculture, mining exploration and exploitation, a large-scale hydroelectric scheme, geothermal development and agricultural plantations.”

Talking about collateral damage!